The UK is a nation of fish-eaters. From crabs to crayfish, mussels to mackerel, we love it all. Being an island surrounded by the ocean, it’s no real surprise that fish is a staple food source along the length and breadth of the country. When it comes to particular dishes, the nation’s favourite fish-based meal is without doubt traditional fish and chips. A humble combination of battered fish and fried potato chips is enjoyed by 80% of the UK population at least once a year.
The beauty of this classic British dish is in its simplicity. Yet even within its modest parameters there is a myriad of tasty adaptations and regional variations (see our post focusing on the differences in fish and chips in just the north and south of England alone). While we can all agree on the basics of fish and chips, it’s the details of the dish that can allow culinary creativity to truly flourish. Perhaps the most important question to ask is – ‘what is the tastiest fish to eat with chips?’
This post will be your guide to the UK’s most popular fried fish as well as explore some lesser-eaten species that could pique your interest the next time you’re feeling adventurous waiting in line at your local chippy.
Why not start at the top with the UK’s favourite fried fish? The Atlantic cod is regularly eaten by approximately 47% of fish-eating UK adults. Particularly popular in the south of the country, this species has remained the fish of choice largely due to its soft texture and mild taste. These characteristics perfectly compliment the crispy batter and rich flavours of salt and vinegar to create a beautifully balanced dish.
A member of the cod family, this fish is usually favoured over cod in the north of England. While only 26% of fish-eating adults regularly eat haddock in the UK, it has seen increased popularity in the last decade as a sustainable alternative to dwindling cod stocks. Happily, North Atlantic cod stocks have recovered back to sustainable levels but the national exposure to the slightly sweeter taste of haddock has made a real impression outside of its traditional northern territory.
Widely eaten in France – where the majority of UK caught pollock is exported – this underappreciated fish is slowly finding popularity in the British Isles. Another member of the cod family, it shares the same delicious taste as its scaly cousins but – due to its relative abundance – comes at a lesser price. Pollock is a versatile fish, suitable for baking and poaching, but is best served fried with a generous serving of chips and a dash of lemon juice.
A mainstay in the chippies of the Scottish west coast, skate stands out in this list as it is a member of the ray family and therefore cartilaginous. This distinguishes skate from the rest of the fish in this list who are all classified as bony fish. Somewhat ironically, it is the bones of skate that often divide opinion, as they need to be removed before you can tuck into its toothsome and almost nutty flesh. For those with the patience, skate can be a tasty change to more common fried fish species and it’s mild flavour is a great accompaniment for tartar sauce.
Favourite of chippies that love a punning title, this sedentary fish spends the majority of its time on the sandy seabeds of the UK and Ireland. Despite its lowly lifestyle, plaice is a popular fish choice owing to its white, tender flesh that absorbs flavour beautifully, making it ideal for frying. A fascinating fish to behold – with its flat body and distinctive orange spots – plaice has been widely enjoyed in Scandinavia for centuries but has never really enjoyed the same popularity in the British Isles.
Whatever fish you prefer in your fish and chips, it’s vital that its fried in a top-quality oil. Stepforward Frymax, the leading vegetable oil for the fish frying trade for over 60 years. Fully refined and deodorised, Frymax is the frying oil of choice for any chippy looking for sustainable, long lasting vegetable oil. Get in touch with our team today to learn more.